Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wisconsin bill limits recovery for victims of discrimination

The Wisconsin legislature has passed a bill that will eliminate the right of victims of discrimination to receive punitive damages or damages for emotional distress. Once the bill is passed into law, a discrimination claim will only allow the recovery of lost wages and attorneys' fees.

This bill will have a devastating effect on the right of workers to be free from discrimination. If an employee can only recover lost wages, then an employee who is discriminated at work – for instance, through sexual harassment or pervasive racial animosity – but has not been fired has no recourse in the law. Such an employee has not lost any wages. I suppose the theory of constructive discharge is still available, but that would force the employee to leave his or her job and hope that the court finds that a constructive discharge occurred.

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